Jimmie Johnson has a history of dominance at Lowe's Motor Speedway, but had never started from the pole in the All-Star race.
After a speedy, mistake-free performance Friday, the decorated driver can check off that accomplishment, too.
The three-time defending Sprint Cup points champion won five of six points races at Lowe's from 2003-05. He's in position to return to the top spot after being the star of the unusual qualifying format.
Teams had to go three laps and make a four-tire pit stop without speeding down pit road or leaving loose lug nuts.
Time penalties for those infractions cost several drivers, but not Johnson. He had a speedy first lap, but shot to the front by being the fastest out of the pits _ 119 mph.
He finished in 2 minutes, 1.416 seconds, then held off all challengers. Kurt Busch will start second in the 100-lap non-points shootout Saturday night that pays the winner $1 million.
"I think with track position as important as it's going to be in the race, to be where we are is a great situation," Johnson said. "We focused on it hard today and everybody did their jobs.
Busch finished in 2:02.187. Matt Kenseth will start third, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin.
"Jimmie Johnson, the 48 guys are always the tough ones to beat here at Lowe's, no matter what event it is," Busch said. "But overall I'm very happy with our lap. To be starting outside pole, that's almost as good as starting on the pole here at Lowe's."
Jeff Gordon qualified sixth, followed by Bobby Labonte, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.
Several drivers, including Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, slipped out of the top 10 because of penalties.
Edwards posted a time of 2:01.80, but received 15 seconds in penalties for three loose lug nuts. He'll start 14th.
"It's a mini version of how our season is going so far," Edwards said.
Kyle Busch dropped from third to 13th because of loose lug nuts.
It was a much lighter atmosphere than qualifying for points races. Not everybody even knew the rules.
Tony Stewart sped away from his pit stall after his team had changed only two tires. As his crew stood baffled, Stewart stopped down pit road.
"I'll be right back," Stewart said through his radio before returning for the left-side tires.
Stewart, who will start 15th, then joked that he hoped Earnhardt would make a similar mistake.
"I'm just praying Dale Jr. will do what he's done all year and miss the box," Stewart said.
Earnhardt had no trouble getting into his stall and burned around the track with a time of 2:03.269 to take the top spot until teammate Johnson overtook him.
"It's going to be a big contributing factor to the way we perform (Saturday)," said Chad Knaus, Johnson's crew chief. "It's really good. The guys did a very good job. This is a big week for all of the pit crews."
Jeff Burton, whose team won Thursday's pit crew competition, was penalized for entering pit road too fast. He'll start 16th.
Qualifying consisted of 18 drivers who got into the All-Star field thanks to victories in the past year or by being former race or series champions.
Those left out will race in Saturday's preliminary Sprint Showdown. The top two finishers will transfer to the All-Star race, along with a third driver voted by fans.
David Stremme will start at the front of the preliminary race after qualifying was canceled because of a rain shower. The order was determined by the qualifying draw. Stremme drew third, but Kirk Shelmerdine and Carl Long will have to go to the back of the field because of car issues.